The Wanderer's Reverend Sang-Chul Lee wandered the world before settling in Canada. He had been pushed out of every home he'd known, from Stalinist Russia to occupied China, and war-ravaged Korea. Lee and his family were among the first Korean immigrants to settle in Canada. They arrived in British Columbia in 1965.
The earliest contact Koreans had with Canadians was in 1890 through Canadian missionaries working in Korea. It was through these channels and church connections that Reverend Lee, like most Koreans, subsequently immigrated to Canada, seeking opportunities for economic dependence and a future for their families.(1)
Almost all Korean immigration to Canada has been from South Korea. Following WWII, the country of Korea was divided into northern(communist) and southern(American-influenced) zones. This division led to the Korean war in the early 1950s, which was eventually the motivating force behind the vast majority of Korean immigrants to Canada.(2)
In the late 1960s and early 1970s Canadian immigration began to open up, allowing Korean people to come to Canada as landed immigrants. At about this time, Reverend Lee had begun to think about returning to Korea. He had promised his wife and three children that they would stay in Canada for only three years before they returned home. But Koreans were arriving en masse at the Vancouver airport every Wednesday. Reverend Sang-Chul Lee was still needed in Canada to help the newcomers adjust. Deciding that his calling was here in Canada, it became Rev. Lee's job to wait at the airport to greet new Korean immigrants and help them find their way.
Immigrants didn't always arrive in Canada directly from South Korea. They also came via Vietnam, Europe, South America and the United States. (3)
Most Korean Canadians, both immigrants and their children, came as highly skilled workers or professionals such as doctors, professors, engineers, computer and electronic personnel. Often they set themselves up in businesses such as food stores, gas bars, restaurants, printing shops, real estate and insurance industries. The majority of the more recent Korean immigrant are business and entrepreneurial families.(4)
Korean immigrants to Canada usually choose to settle in urban centres, particularly Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. Recently, they have sometimes followed economic opportunities and settled in some smaller and more remote areas. According the recent census figures, the Korean population in Canada in close to 50,000, although this figure does not include Canadian-born children of Korean parents who immigrated, and therefore underestimates the size of Korean Canadian heritage.(5)